Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Leonard A. Gonzales, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)August 30, 1929 – March 13, 2017
Leonard A. Gonzales, Lt. Col USAF (Ret) age 87 died surrounded by his loving family on Monday, March 13, 2017 in Santa Maria, California. Leonard was the youngest of three children, born August 30, 1929 in San Gabriel, California to Joaquin and Aurora Gonzales. Leonard is survived by his wife Mavi Gonzales, and six daughters, Diana Lemke of San Luis Obispo, Patricia Moffitt (Mitchell) of Merritt Island, Florida, Mavi Ann Brockway (Dennis) of Yorba Linda, Kathryn Fuerch (Wes) of Santa Maria, Laura Weidemann (Fred) of Redlands, Susan Hottinger (Ski) of Livermore and 15 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren. He is predeceased by his father Joaquin, mother Aurora, brother Henry and his sister Elvira.
While attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on November 9, 1950 and was a B-29 Navigator Observer. He then entered the Aviation Cadet Program. Leonard earned an Associate in Arts from Santa Maria Junior College (now known as Allan Hancock College) and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Maryland. He also received a Master of Arts in School Counseling from Chapman College and a Master of Public Administration from California State University, Bakersfield. He then pursued his Doctoral Degree in the field of Economic studies.
Leonard served 21 years in the U. S. Air Force as a pilot and retired in 1971. During his U.S. Air Force career he received four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 10 Air Medals, two Vietnam Crosses for Gallantry and one Silver Star with a Palm. While on active duty in Vietnam as a helicopter Gunship Commander, assigned to the 20th Special Operation Squadron, he was awarded the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism for the military operation near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam on November 26, 1968. The military operation was recently declassified and honored with a permanent museum exhibit called “Miracle on the River” at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. Leonard was attributed with saving the lives of a six-man Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol that was overrun by well-armed hostile forces behind enemy lines. The President of the United States of America authorized the award of the Air Force Cross which is the second highest military award for his suburb airmanship, aggressiveness, and extraordinary heroism.
Leonard was employed at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as the Relations with School Coordinator from 1972 to 1985 where he encouraged and guided many students, including his six daughters, to aspire to a higher education. In 1985 he began his employment at California State University, Bakersfield as an Admissions Officer and Financial Aide Counselor, until his retirement in 2000.
At the center of Leonard’s life was his Catholic faith where he volunteered on the Finance committee and headed the hospitality ministry at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church. Leonard also was an active member of the Santa Maria Elks Club where he served as a Greeter. Additionally, he was very committed to improving his community through the youth and served on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Maria, California.When asked what his greatest achievement of his life was, Leonard replied that his love for his wife, six daughters and their families-guiding them to a better life through education, and the lasting sacrament of marriage to his beautiful and loving wife, Mavi of 64 years. He was very humble in his own success, but was never silent about the pride he had for his family’s accomplishments.
We will always listen for his voice, pushing us to be better than what is expected and pressing us forward to the next chapter for more knowledge and education. We will miss his unending guidance, ready smile and enthusiasm for life.
Rosary will be held at 7:00 pm on Friday, March 24, 2017, Chapel of Magner-Maloney Funeral Home, 600 East Stowell Road, Santa Maria, California, 93454. Mass at 9:30 am on Saturday, March 25, 2017 will be held at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church, 966 West Orchard, Santa Maria, California, 93458. Procession to Santa Maria Cemetery, 1501 South College Drive, Santa Maria, California, 93454 immediately following Mass.
Arrangements are in the care of Magner-Maloney Funeral Home and Crematory. Sympathy notes and words of support may be expressed at www.magnermaloney.com.
Magner-Maloney Funeral Home and Crematory600 East Stowell Road, Santa Maria, CA 93454